It will be years or even decades before we fully understand the profound impacts the COVID pandemic has had on businesses and the way we work. Earlier today, I was having a great discussion with one of our clients about observations and learnings we had from a recent 5-connection virtual Business Acumen and Business Leadership workshop we conducted for senior leaders.
He shared that several participants were “frustrated” that in their business simulation teams they weren’t able to effectively persuade other team members when it came down to critical decisions of the simulation such as pricing and the amount of money being invested in R&D.
We both started to wonder about the challenges and the opportunities of working with others when you are not in the same physical location. I told him that I would do some research and reach out to my trusted group of senior leaders and bounce some ideas off them to see of we could draw conclusions.
I was surprised and fascinated by the speed and quality of the insights I was able to get in just a few hours. Here is a list and details about the 3 things I discovered in terms of being more persuasive in a virtual environment:
Be More Direct with Others
The first and most important aspect to being more persuasive is being more direct with others. For some, that’s not easy and for others, it’s too easy. Finding the right balance is the key to perfection. Ways of being more direct:
- Get to the point and keep the message simple
- Focus on the facts and not the emotions
- Ask questions, and clarify that you heard the answers
- Don’t waste time by pretending to listen to other perspectives if you aren’t going to listen to other perspectives
- Don’t use jargon and other fancy words in an attempt to persuade by making yourself look smarter than the people you are trying to persuade
Set Ground Rules for Collaboration
Any meeting is tough. Virtual meetings are especially tough because of the distractions and lack of proximity. If you want to persuade, then set ground rules for how the meeting should go. Talk openly about making sure everyone has a voice and encourage people to speak up so their voices are heard. Most importantly find ways of dealing with the “steamroller” personality who will roll all over anything or anyone that gets in their way.
Embrace Healthy Conflict
Maybe it’s the pandemic, maybe because all of this is new, or maybe it’s just because people have realized it easier to be nice to one another that there has been a significant avoidance of conflict in the virtual work environment. Strong business professionals know that not all conflict is bad, and that healthy conflict should be encouraged and embraced. If you have an opinion and it is not the same as everyone else’s and you think it will cause conflict, you have an obligation to your team and yourself to speak up. If you don’t, and you find that others are being too aggressive and you are frustrated with the progress, it’s not everyone else’s fault.
If conflict is something you are uncomfortable with, then here are a couple of tools to remember:
- The conflict won’t escalate if you are calm, unemotional, willing to listen, and willing to ask to be listened to
- If you believe your perspective or insights are valuable, then others will too and that will always reduce the conflict
- There’s a very good chance that if someone is blocking you from sharing insights by creating a conflict-filled environment, they may not have a strong perspective and are actually using conflict as a persuasion tool
In summary, skills of persuasion are very delicate and require development and practice. Take a few moments to do some self-reflection and see if any of the ideas I shared in this blog strike a chord.